Dave's Diary
This journal of the comings'n'goings and musings'n'enthusings of Dave Ling will be updated daily
(except after nights of excess)

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Tuesday 31st January
Dammit, dammit, dammit. I’m still seething from last night’s game at Selhurst. Just as it had seemed likely that Crystal Palace would complete the double over our much loathed rivals Broken & Homo Albion, the referee was suckered into awarding the visitors a ropey penalty for a swallow dive of the most dubious kind. This was doubly sickening as the Eagles’ rearguard had been afforded ample time and opportunity to have hoofed the ball into the safety of Row Z before the alleged ‘foul’ took place. Oh well, this season we’ve claimed four points apiece from Shiteon and Scumwall, so it would be churlish to complain.
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Monday 30th January
It’s late afternoon and I’m back in Catford following an excellent weekend up in Skegness. Here’s the rundown of the final day:
The gradual phasing out of their self-penned material suggests that Skinny Molly [5/10] are unashamed of morphing into a Southern rock tribute act – a competent one, admittedly, though considering that their leader Mike Estes was a blink-and-you-missed-him member of Lynyrd Skynyrd for a solitary studio album, their right to rework ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, ‘Free Bird’ et al is on the dubious side. And perhaps revealing that even Estes recognises the inadequacy of a 2011 incarnation of Blackfoot that he himself fronted, at Skeggy the task of voicing so-so renditions of ‘Flyaway’ and ‘Train Train’ was delegated to Skinny Molly’s bass player.
“I know that we only loosely scrape in as blues but we’re doing our best,” grinned Steve Overland introducing ‘Closer To Heaven’, a heart-rending ballad from the ‘Aphrodisiac’ album that just like their cult favourite single from 1987, ‘Let Love Be The Leader’, FM [9/10] haven’t performed for way too many years. Unlike so many of his 1980s counterparts, Overland still has an incredible, emotive voice, whether putting it to use during AOR-era fare such as ‘I Belong To The Night’, ‘That Girl’, ‘Does It Feel Like Love’ or ‘The Other Side Of Midnight’, or the earthier yet no less anthemic ‘Wild Side’ or ‘Blood And Gasoline’, even an encore revisiting of Joe Walsh’s ‘Rocky Mountain Way’. I’m now counting the minutes till the band’s ‘Indiscreet’ album-themed tour in March.
Afterwards, my drinking buddies and I were joined in the bar by drummer Pete Jupp, who looked on as though observing some kind of social experiment as Mark Taylor and I bickered – fiercely at times – over whether ‘Indiscreet’ should be played in one big self-contained chunk, or broken down into Sides One and Two (as was back in the days of vinyl), sandwiched by a few latterday classics, heading off for the encores after ‘Frozen Heart’ (cruelly omitted last night) and ‘Heart Of The Matter’ (my own favoured option). “Hmmm… I can't wait to run that past Merv,” Pete hedged with a mischievous smile. And then we started debating the Firefest bill, which had been announced earlier in the evening. That’s a subject for another day, I think…
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Sunday 29th January
Day #2 of the Great British Rock & Blues Festival presented another annoying conundrum. Did I watch Debbie Bonham for the umpteenth time or accept my heaven-sent, seemingly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to check out the Steve Gibbons Band, a guy whose records I’ve started picking up over the last few years? Eventually I opted for as much as possible of both acts.
The Deborah Bonham Band [6/10] are a shoe-in for occasions such as this. The younger sister of Led Zeppelin’s John, Deborah offers a likable Earth Mother-style persona and a warm and fruity voice. Though the songs can scarcely be described as exceptional, her band’s robust and authoritative delivery is sufficient to take up the slack. I’m told that ‘The Old Hyde’, a tear-jerking ballad inspired by the house in which her family grew up, was especially charged on this occasion. Ah, bugger…
That decision to investigate The Steve Gibbons Band [3/10] was soon regretted. Rightly renowned for his remake of Chuck Berry’s ‘Tulane’, a Top 20 hit in 1977, the SGB appear to play the same song over and over (and over) again, as an inoffensive blues-shuffle, delivered at mid-pace and intoned by Gibbons in a seemingly apathetic mid-Atlantic drawl – curious as he hails from Birmingham, West Midlands, as opposed to the Alabama variety. Before too long his set descended into the audio equivalent of a geriatric slumber party (and, damn it all to hell, the itinerary demanded a return to the Reds Stage without hearing ‘Tulane’).
For many, Argent [9/10] were the band of the weekend. With roots buried in prog, jazz, hard rock, pop and yes… blues (at its most melodic), the complexity of ‘It’s Only Money (Parts I & II’), ‘Keep On Rolling’, ‘Rejoice’, ‘Dance Of Angels’ and ‘Be Free’ drove away some of the audience. However, those that stayed were rewarded with something very special, paradoxically by a glorious selection of tunes popularised by other artists. ‘Liar’ is better known to come as a Three Dog Night tune, ‘She’s Not There’ was a hit for keyboardist/singer Rod Argent in The Zombies and ‘I Don’t Believe In Miracles’ for that group’s vocalist Colin Blunstone, whilst he reception afforded to guitarist Russ Ballard’s ‘Since You Been Gone’ and ‘God Gave Rock And Roll To You’ – recorded by Rainbow and Kiss, respectively – was equalled only by Argent (the band’s) own, triumphant, ‘Hold Your Head Up’.
The leader of the next attraction took to the stage sporting what looked like a pair of pyjamas made from a ghastly old patchwork quilt. Luckily, what Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash might lack in sartorial elegance was cloaked by the sheer elegance of their music. Now beginning to reap the rewards of being among the circuit’s hardest working groups, the quartet no longer play the celebrated 1972 album, ‘Argus’, in its entirety. The introduction of catalogue gems such as ‘Lady Jay’ from ‘There’s The Rub’ and the ‘Just Testing’ album’s ‘Lifeline’ has freshened things up no end, and the lustre of golden oldies ‘The King Will Come’, ‘Front Page News’, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Widow’ and ‘Blowin’ Free’ refuses to fade with age. Had their encore of ‘Sometime World’, ‘Living Proof’ and ‘Jailbait’ included the epic ‘Phoenix’ they’d have got a [9] from me, but an [8/10] will have to suffice.
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Saturday 28th January
I type from Butlins in Skegness where the Great British Rock & Blues Festival has got off to a flying start. Amazingly, the place holds around 9,000 people, with bands performing in various different arenas though mostly in two main halls. From my own perspective, having stood just in front of the stage for my first sighting of the group since the Reading Festival many moons ago, the performance of Ten Years After [7/10] was undermined by sound quality issues. Though the music was loud and clear, the vocals were too low in the mix. Moving to the rear of the hall after about half an hour made a huge difference. It's odd to think that Alvin Lee's replacement, Joe Gooch, has been with them for almost nine years. The age disparity between Gooch (who is still some way off forty) and his band-mates is striking, but he plays with panache, wisdom and, where appropriate, blinding speed, especially on the signature hit 'I'm Going Home', which brought the house down, The group really should play the UK more often than they do,
Regrettably, there followed a toss-up between Chantel McGregor and Virgil & The Accelarators. The iffy sound on the Centre Stage convinced me that Virgil represented a marginally better bet. I arrived at the Reds Stage just as Roger Chapman was winding up with an excellent version of Mike Oldfield's 'Shadow On The Wall' and regretted having missed the rest of his set.
Virgil & The Accelerators [8/10] went down extremely well, his powerhouse display including the anthemic 'Backstabber', a song that Classic Rock hailed among the best songs of 2011. Two band new tunes, 'Fell To The Floor' and 'Low Down And Dirty', also suggested that the Accelerators' second album will be no poor relation to their critically feted debut, though closing the set proper with two lengthy slow blues workouts - the second an instrumnetal - suggests he still has much to learn when in comes to the art of presentation.
Anyway, I'm off for a run along the beach and some brekkie. Then the Br***ton-Newcastle on the big screen before the second night of music begins. Come on you Toon!!! Score a hatful!!
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Friday 27th January
I’m now officially a divorcee. The news is hardly unexpected, but when that piece of paper drops onto the mat… it’s a very strange feeling indeed.
In a while I shall be departing for a weekend away at an indoor rock and blues festival in Skegness with a load of boozy footie and music-mad mates. The timing is pretty good… hahaha. My old muckers FM are on the bill and it will be great to see Ten Years After again. However, there are a number of annoying schedule clashes. This evening Chantel McGregor and Virgil & The Accelerators share 11pm spots on different stages, also TYA and Roger Chapman. And on Sunday, FM and the alleged ‘Dr Feelgood’ (who now contain no original members) are also on at the same time… bah. Anyway, I’m sure it’ll be fantastic fun.
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Thursday 26th January
Just back from a trip behind enemy lines to that unmentionable town on the South Coast. Mr Neil Jeffries and I managed to slip into the place undetected, having spun UFO’s excellent forthcoming album ‘Seven Deadly’ on the journey down the motorway, and ‘Elegant Stealth’ by Wishbone Ash during the return journey.
The Komedia is a great, intimate venue holding maybe two or three hundred people (when seated), and it was a full as dammit for An Evening With Danny & Ben, AKA Thunder’s Messrs Bowes and Matthews, who provided an audio smorgasbord of quality chat and music. Besides running through several Thunder ditties (‘A Better Man’, ‘Like A Satellite’ and the relative obscurity ‘See My Baby Walking’ – the latter with Bowes performing its guitar solo on a kazoo!) they covered ‘Seagull’ by Bad Company, Chuck Berry’s ‘Nadine’, ‘Squeeze Box’ by The Who, Elvis Presley’s ‘She’s Not You’, the Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’ and the Bob Dylan standard ‘Make You Feel My Love’.
There were also a rib-tickling selection of road tales, many of which involved unpleasant bodily emissions from Thunder’s notorious Crystal Palace-supporting drummer Gary ‘Harry’ James. At times I almost had to wipe away a tear, especially whilst being regaled about the middle-aged German interviewer with the n-n-n-nervous tic, and the quest to steal a wig worn by an equally Teutonic barman. When a guy in the front rows made a big deal of standing up during the show and leaving to take a leak, Bowes mischievously grinned: “Tell ya what we should do… let’s all go and stand in the street so the place is empty when he comes back.” Fantastic stuff. I hope Danny and Ben do it again sometime.
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Wednesday 25th January
Now… which cliché to use? Sick as a parrot (after Palace lost the League Cup semi-final on pens, having played much of the game with ten men), or sick as a dog (I’ve just puked and had to go back to bed for two hours after the kids went to school)? Either way… I feel like complete crap. Regardless, I’m proud of Palace’s players for giving their all and coming so tantalisingly close to reaching a major final. The fact that manger Dougie Freedman, who 12 months ago inherited a side that was bottom of the league, is to be offered a new contract is outstanding news. We are still only six points off the Play-Offs; this season ain’t over yet...
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Tuesday 24th January
Okay, this is sad to admit but I’ve been awake since 5.35am fretting about this evening’s League Cup semi-final game between Crystal Palace and Cardiff. Luckily I keep the Tesco wine pouches downstairs in the fridge, or I’d have been sorely tempted. Before getting up to make the kids’ sandwiches and turf them off to school, I finished two issues of Metal Hammer that had sat by the side of the bed for months (their respective cover stories on Down and Lamb Of God – both excellent groups – were great). Also worked my way through much of the new Led Zeppelin lovers’ Bible, Tight But Loose, which focuses on that group’s remarkable year of 1971. A day of frenzied tape transcription and hopefully a bit of a run (should it stop bleeding raining) now await me. I hope this will prove sufficient to keep my mind from sporting matters. Roll on 4pm and the first beer. Here’s praying that CPFC book a trip to Wembley, if only for the sake of Eddie, my footie-mad eldest son. COME ON YOU EAGLES!!!!!!!
P.S. Check out the latest additions to the Best Rock ‘N’ Roll Quotes page – a few pearls there!
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Sunday 22nd January
I’ve been delving into Pat Benatar’s back catalogue whilst writing a sleeve essay for a forthcoming ‘best-of’ anthology. She made some great music, I’d almost forgotten. I only saw her onstage once; at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1983, with ex-Sweet singer Brian Connolly as her support act. Truthfully, I only went along to see Brian but it was a great night, as I recall.
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Saturday 21st January
Awoke sprawled on the sofa at 3am following the Spider reunion dinner (see Friday’s Diary): Hmmm… some dastardly fiend must have been lacing those cups of tea with something strong??!! It was great to catch up again with the four band members again, also their former album producer Tony Wilson (of Friday Rock Show, TotalRock Radio fame) and ever-smiling erstwhile merch lady, Debbie Long. Shame Maggi Farran, their manager, wasn’t able to make it. Though the faces and hairstyles (also the facial follicles) might’ve changed, the personalities remain the same. Rob E Burrows is still the master of the sarcastic one-line putdown, and there are few more focussed or driven individuals than his brother Brian. To divulge the details of the evening’s discussion would be unprofessional, so let’s just say that everyone got on better than we’d dared to hope and, despite the geographical issues, I’m optimistic of seeing most if not all of us in the same room again before too long.

Myself and Sniffa - one of these men is pretending to drink tea!

(L-R), Sniffa, yours truly, Brian Burrows, Col Harness, Tony Wilson and Rob E Burrows.

Sniffa, your correspondent and Brian.

I type this with a heavy heart after two late goals condemned my beloved Crystal Palace to an away defeat against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road – a ground at which the Eagles last won in the league back in… ulp!... 1924. With Wednesday night’s League Cup semi-final 2nd leg in mind boss Freedman had chosen to rest nine – Yes, nine!! – first-teamers, though still the patched-up team from SE25 took the lead (albeit via a hotly contested penalty). Climbing the walls whilst listening to the radio commentary I had actually dared to believe we might hang onto three priceless points till being sunk in the 85th and 90th minute, respectively, thereby spoiling both my afternoon and evening. Oh well… the **really big** game comes next week.
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Friday 20th January
So after a false dawn of hope the Test Match against Pakistan wrapped two days early with England crumbling to an embarrassing ten wicket defeat. Some big changes must be made before the three-match series resumes next week, though I’m willing to bet that England are too arrogant to consider them.
Last night I fancied a few drinks so headed up to the Crobar in central London. As usual, immense fun was had by all. I went to the bar to buy my round and by the time I brought the drinks back to the table Malcolm Dome, Jerry Ewing and John Dryland had all gone home… so my friend Harj Kallah and I had to sup them ourselves – it’s a tough life!
I’m really looking forward to this evening’s reunion dinner for the much-missed UK boogie combo Spider, a band with whom I worked very closely at the start of my journalistic career. Travelling about with the group on their bus as they supported Gillan on the ‘Magic’ tour in 1982 and helping to run their fan club, it’s fair to say that Spider played a big part in my apprenticeship. Though I’ve been back in regular contact with guitarist Dave Bryce (AKA Sniffa) and guitarist/frontman Col Harkness for the past few years, I haven’t seen bassist/vocalist Brian Burrows (who now lives in France) or his drumming brother Rob E (these days a resident of Australia) since the group broke up way back in… ulp… 1986.
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Thursday 19th January
Some emails have requested my opinion of ‘Tattoo’, the new Van Halen song. The answer? Not a lot. To these ears it’s rather dull and pedestrian, and what’s up with Diamond Dave’s voice?! I’m in agreement with Sammy Hagar who recently said that the first track to be heard from ‘A Different Kind Of Truth’ (due, apparently, in early February) is not “great at all”. Adds the Chickenfoot singer: “God bless them, but I expected much more.” And so say all of us. After this dud, here’s hoping that the album has a few knockout punches up its sleeve.
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Wednesday 18th January
Yesssssss… a couple of dramatic late wickets on Day Two have allowed England back into contention in the First Test against Pakistan. Game on!
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Tuesday 17th January
I’m back in Catford after a tasty pub lunch with Jeff Scott Soto, the singer’s partner Elena and Frontiers Records publicist Faye Blaylock – most civilised and pleasant; now **that’s** the way to conduct an interview. I’m happy to report that Soto’s new album, ‘Damage Control’ (issued via Frontiers on March 23), is also rather good.
It’s fantastic to have cricket back again, though England have got off to a woeful start in the Test series against Pakistan. Skittled out for an embarrassingly meagre total of 192 thanks largely to the spin bowling heroics of Saeed Ajmal (who picked up a seven-wicket haul), the home side were already 42 without loss at stumps. Methinks Monty Panesar will play a part in the Second Test.
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Monday 16th January
Yikes... what have I gone and done?!? Entered a 10K ‘fun run’ in Crystal Palace Park!!! It’s still a couple of months away so there’s time in which to escalate the training, but I’m wondering whether it’ll be too much too soon. There’s only one way to find out! Yesterday afternoon I interrupted work on a sleeve essay for a new Terrorvision anthology and a record label biography for the new Angel Witch album, ‘As Above, So Below’, to register a few more laps around the local park, the headphones buzzing with a recording of Styx’s gig at Wembley Arena from last June, a wondrous night on which I felt they overcame time limitations to outclass both Journey and Foreigner. ‘The Grand Illusion’, ‘Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)’, ‘Too Much Time On My Hands’, ‘Come Sail Away’, ‘Miss America’… great music to run to!!
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Sunday 15th January
No doubt about it, a hapless referee managed to ruin yesterday’s game between Crystal Palace and Leeds through the sending off of Eagles midfielder Shaun Scannell. At the time of this risible decision Palace were winning 1-0 and I’ve no doubt they would have ridden out as victors with a full team of 11. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Despite Julian Speroni having produced a brilliant double-save, the second of which was one of the finest stops ever seen at Selhurst, Leeds – who escaped unpunished for a sickening succession of their own fouls – notched an equaliser during the second half to claim an ill-deserved point. Bah!
So I headed over to Chickenfoot’s gig at the Brixton Academy, arriving in time for an excellent seven-song warm-up slot from Red White & Blues, the band featuring ex-Skin guitarist Myke Gray and his former Jagged Edge cohort Matti Alfonzetti on vocals. Though the sound was a little murky it was encouraging to see the audience’s interest gradually escalate, the outstanding ‘Counts For Nothing’, which starts slowly and builds to fulsome, fruity climax, gaining an extremely creditable response.
Despite the notable absence of drummer Chad Smith, Chickenfoot provided excellent entertainment. Their new album ‘III’ represents a vast improvement upon their self-titled debut and it’s almost inconceivable that Sammy Hagar is now 64 years old – his voice is wonderful and nobody could dislike such a vivacious persona. Bassist Michael Anthony’s signature backing vocals were superb throughout, something that Hagar pointed out: “Nobody can sing that high, nobody! He sounds like Mariah Carey or some shit”, and the playing of guitarist Joe Satriani was consistently sublime, notably on an encore cover of Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’.
Despite all of the above, I’m not so sure that I enjoyed this show from Chickenfoot as much as their UK debut at Shepherd’s Bush Empire back in June 2009. It might have been the sheer disbelief of seeing Hagar and Anthony on a British stage again that bowled me over back then; such raw emotion doesn’t come along twice. And yet will Van Halen be any better should they make it across the pond in 2012? EVH and DLR have the superior catalogue, that’s for sure, though it’s doubtful that they could match a performance this impassioned and classy. Anyway, here’s the set-list: ‘Lighten Up’, ‘Alright Alright’, ‘Big Foot’, ‘Sexy Little Thing’, ‘Soap On A Rope’, ‘Up Next’, ‘My Kinda Girl’, ‘Down The Drain’, ‘Three And A Half Letters’, ‘Something Going Wrong’, ‘Turnin’ Left’ and ‘Future In The Past’, with an encore of ‘Different Devil’, ‘Oh Yeah’ and ‘Foxy Lady’.
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Friday 13th January
Did anyone else see BBC1’s documentary Freddie Flintoff: The Hidden Side of Sport, in which former England all-rounder and captain Flintoff attempted to get to grips with depression in the world of professional sportspeople? Following football, cricket and rugby can be an incredibly trying and stressful experience, even from the distant view of a spectator, but I’d never before considered the viewpoint of the participants. When somebody as macho as Vinnie Jones owns up to going into the woods armed with a shotgun and considering turning it upon themselves… well, it makes pretty harrowing viewing. These guys are not superhuman after all – cut them and they will bleed. The programme moved me, no doubt about it.
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Thursday 12th January
I’m back in Catford following an enjoyable morning spent in the company of Sir Michael of Box. Although the great god of transport screw-ups did his/her best to foul up my path from South London to the city’s North, the ever-cheerful Uriah Heep guitarist was kind enough to respond to my texted SOS, beaming: “Welcome to the Box Chariot!” as he picked me up from outside a nearby tube station. Top fella, and another superb interview.
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Wednesday 11th January
It was good to catch up with Lee Kerslake in yesterday morning’s lengthy phone conversation. Known as much for his strong opinions as a bear-like physique, the former Uriah Heep drummer isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, and advancing years don’t appear to have mellowed him, but blimey… Kerslake still gives good interview. There was just enough time to go for a few laps of the park and a quick shower, grabbing lunch on the run en route to North London and an interview chez former Bronze Records head honcho Gerry Bron – Kerslake’s bête noire during the Uriah Heep days another guy that insists on telling it like it is.
Once the work was done ‘n’ dusted I nipped into an off licence and began limbering up for the evening’s hugely important League Cup semi-final first leg between Crystal Palace and Cardiff City. Full credit to the supporters of both sides: Selhurst was a cauldron, and Eagles finished 1-0 winners, thanks to Anthony Gardner’s crucial first-half header. With a second leg still to come, will such a slim lead be sufficient? I kinda doubt it; it’s plain that the tie still has goals in it. But should Palace nick one away from home the Bluebirds will require something special, who knows… maybe a trip to Wembley could be on the cards??!!
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Tuesday 10th January
Well, that’s got to be the most preposterous story I’ve ever read. E**c C***ona wants to become the next president of France. To set his campaign in motion the unhinged former ManUre/Leeds player must secure the backing of 500 elected officials by the end of next month. He’s certainly a big enough loony. What, I wonder, will his policies be? Mandatory kung fu training for all? Sheeesh.
Talking of footie, I’m looking forward to seeing Crystal Palace in a cup semi-final again. This evening the Eagles take on Cardiff under the Selhurst Park floodlights in the first of two head-to-head clashes, the victors of which will face either Liverpool or Man City in the final at Wembley. I’ve a worrying feeling that the Bluebirds will be a little too strong for Freedman’s men over 180 minutes, but nobody (myself included) really predicted the now legendary quarter-final win at Old Trafford in the quarter-final, so who knows?
Further to yesterday’s bombshell that Tony Iommi is suffering from cancer, the original Black Sabbath have **not** postponed plans to record their first album together in 33 years. Far from it. Indeed, a news statement reveals that Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward are relocating to the UK to allow Iommi to participate in both the writing and recording sessions whilst the guitarist undergoes medical treatment. Their plan to release the long-awaited follow-up to ‘Never Say Die!’ this autumn is apparently unaffected.
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Monday 9th January
Apart from venturing out to the local park for a massive run – my second in 48 hours! – yesterday was spent at my desk writing some album reviews for both Classic Rock and Metal Hammer magazines. The newie from Euro-metalheads Primal Fear is an absolute humdinger!! Seriously, there’s not a bad song on it. ‘Unbreakable’ is so darned good that the band could almost have been considered honorary Englishmen in the New Year’s Honours list. You can tell they’re really Germans, though. I’m pretty sure I just heard Ralf Scheepers singing about “Spitting fire and snakeskin flames”. Er... pardon?
Just as I prepared to wind down for the evening, news broke that Neil Warnock, the king of loyalty, had been sacked by QP-Hahaha. I despised the man before he was installed as CPFC manager by then-chairman Simon Jordan back in 2001, though he got results and gradually I felt myself warming to him – he was still Satan, but he was **our** Satan. As we all know, Warnock showed his true colours three years later when the club went into administration, grabbing the filthy lucre over at Loftus Road and selfishly bailing out on the Eagles who were in the midst of a relegation battle. I don’t mind admitting, to see Colin Winker get his come-uppance really made my weekend.
[Edit: I’m gutted to learn that Tony Iommi is the latest rock musician to be diagnosed with cancer. According to a band statement, Black Sabbath’s legendary guitarist, 63, is suffering from “the early stages of lymphoma”. Like all of Tony’s friends, band-mates and fans, I wish him a speedy and complete recovery.]
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Sunday 8th January
The continuing saga of the 2010/’11 tax return and a towering pile of review CDs, also the fact that I wanted to send some time with my youngest son Arnie on the day he became a teenager (!!!!), combined to scupper an evening trip to Leatherhead for my pal Neil Pudney’s 50th birthday party… sorry, Pudders! During the afternoon, whilst attempting to cross-reference bank statements and invoices, I tuned into the BBC radio commentary of Crystal Palace’s FA Cup game up in Derby. With next week’s League Cup quarter-final first leg in mind, boss-man Freedman fielded a young and extremely raw starting line-up but despite Theo Robinson’s ninth minute strike sending Nigel Clough’s County into the Fourth Round draw, it sounded as though the Eagles played like the home side and were unlucky not to have forced a replay. Oh well, it’s far more important that Palace win the league game at Pride Park on March 24.
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Saturday 7th January
With much of the last seven days spent scrambling around in the vain pursuit of putting my end-of-year accounts in order, I welcomed an invitation to attend last night’s Camden Jazz Café gig from Marcus Bonfanti. After weeks spent stuck indoors at Ling Towers being stung a hefty £9.90 for two pints was a bit of a shock, but the show was excellent. Bonfanti is perhaps best known as a member of the excellent St Jude, though his solo music is bluesier, grittier and a lot less girlie (for obvious reasons). Indeed, no less an organ than the Guardian recently suggested that he “deserves to be the next British blues guitar hero”.
Marcus seemed stunned by the size and enthusiasm of the crowd, telling us how, 12 years ago, as a 17-year-old Jimmy Page obsessive, he used to come to Jazz Café as punter each Sunday night but soon realised that he'd have to work “very, very hard to become a great jazz musician”, whereas being “a good blues musician” was more reliant upon “drinking a hell of a lot of whiskey and having as little money as possible”. To my immense shame, I own only one of Bonfanti’s albums – 2009’s ‘What Good Am I To You?’ – so there would be no point in attempting to compile a set-list, though the George Thorogood-esque ‘Gimme Your Cash’ brought the performance proper to a triumphant close, and the slide-encrusted ‘Alleycats’, one of several tunes being road-tested for a new album, was among the night’s best songs. Bonfanti’s pal Paddy Milner also jumped up to play some stirring New Orleans-style electric piano on Dr John’s ‘Renegade’. Blues-hounds should check him out here.
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Thursday 5th January
So the first interview of 2012 is done and dusted. I’ve just spent a few convivial minutes of phone conversation with Nick Lowe, he of ‘Cruel To Be Kind’ and ‘I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass’ fame, ahead of the singer/songwriter’s upcoming UK tour. I love some of the music that Lowe made during the late 1970s, and it’s kinda hard to believe that he’s now 61 years old. Having just released ‘The Old Magic’, his first new album in four years, we diverged into discussion of how much the industry has changed this last decade; how music is now purchased, how it’s consumed, how much (or indeed how little) it means to people. Nick’s comments were interesting. “It’s kinda of all over,” he stated. “The type of songwriting that I do is akin to the art of making a thatched roof, or knowing how to construct a dry stone wall. It’s a weird old skill that, frankly, people don’t have much use for anymore.” Blimey.
This tends to echo the thoughts of Glenn Hughes, who in the new (Jan/Feb) edition of Fireworks magazine offers the rather depressing prediction: “In 15 years or so, there will be no Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones… [members of] one or two [of those bands] may still be alive but that’ll be it. They won’t be playing [live]. The iconic bands will all be gone, and what will we be left with? The next generation of bands, none of which will have sold hundreds of millions of records or played stadiums. The music business as we know it has gone. It’s a totally different thing now.”
Sobering thoughts, huh?!
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Tuesday 3rd January
Yesterday began with a lifetime first... I went out running as the sun came up. Somebody help me, I’m turning into Philip Wilding!! The earlier than usual start was necessary as for part of his 50th birthday celebrations my CPFC-supporting buddy Neil Pudney had invited eldest son Eddie and I to join him and his family and friends in an executive box at Selhurst Park. With a stadium tour and some posh nosebag thrown in for good measure, we took very little persuasion in accepting this kind offer.
Grinning like loons, Ed and I strode the legendary Selhurst turf before the Holmesdale Road stand, got our photographs taken in the fabled ‘home’ dressing room in front of the shirt that Darren Ambrose would wear later that afternoon, then visited the club’s trophy cabinet (no sarcasm please! The Zeneth Data Systems Cup still counts as a trophy!!), before washing down a lovely meal with lashings of buck’s fizz, Grolsch and Palace Ale. Was that a tent-pole or a size AA battery in Neil’s trouser pocket as he was presented with a signed shirt by the Crystal Girls Cheerleaders? That’s something that only the delightful Louise Pudney will ever know! The greatest moment came when club officials invited Neil’s sons Luke and Sam out into the centre circle for the match’s kick off. To my complete astonishment, Sam generously piped up: “Oh, let Eddie go instead of me.” To say that Luke and the Ed-star were thrilled to bursting by this opportunity would be a whopping understatement… it was a brilliant thing to see. I almost had to wipe away a tear. Sam, I owe you a favour.
Sadly, it came as no surprise that following such a momentous build-up Palace were unable to grasp the afternoon’s available three points. After stand-in goalie Lewis Price had gifted Leicester a bizarre opening goal, followed by a scrappy, marginally superior follow-up effort, Norwegian full-back Jonathan Parr curled an excellent lob past Foxes keeper Kasper ‘Son Of The Devil’ Schmeichel to put Freedman’s men back into contention, but for all their second half dominance the Eagles couldn’t restore parity. It had been such a wonderful day, I couldn’t find it in my heart to be disappointed. Mr Pudney presented Mile Jedinak with his Man Of The Match champagne, and Eddie and I both got our photos taken with the messiah, Darren Ambrose. Does it get any better?
Game and post-match entertainment over and done with it was time to put Eddie on a bus home and hit the pub. Despite having cracked open the first Tesco wine pouch at the unearthly hour of 9.15am, at closing time I was still sitting and talking complete and utter bollocks with my mate Kev Denman in the Cherry Trees at Norwood Junction. Now **that’s** what I call a decent booze-up!!!
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Monday 2nd January
Right… leisure time is officially over – on with the worst aspect of being self-employed…. friggin’ end-of-year accounts. With far more pressing issue to have fretted over these past few months, this is gonna take hour after painstaking hour. Luckily I’ve a huge pile of CDs with which to numb the pain. I’ve been listening to ‘That’s The Way The Wind Blows’, a great double-disc anthology of a blues band called Stretch on Repertoire Records; it’s really superb stuff. Playing re-issues of the first 8 x Doobie Brothers albums has also helped! Later on I shall probably delve into the Frankie Miller four-disc boxed set, ‘The Complete Chrysalis Recordings’.
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Sunday 1st January
It’s been a tumultuous 12 months. My 17-year marriage came to a screeching halt, causing my finances to plunge into meltdown, but there’s always someone worse off than one’s self and I’ve begun to harbour a cautiously optimistic feeling that 2012 will only get better. The atmosphere here at Ling Towers is a good deal more harmonious than it’s been, and Crystal Palace’s 1-0 win over Scumwall – the club’s first away victory over the vile knuckledraggers from South Bermondsey since 1996 – is a pretty good place to start the brand new year. Might have to crack open a bottle of something strong to get the party started. Meanwhile, click for the latest updates to the Playlist and YouTube pages.
I was thrilled to receive ‘Warhead’, the debut from More. The London-based metalheads were one of the very first bands that I ever witnessed live, as an opening act for Angel Witch at London’s Marquee Club way back in July of 1980 (hard to believe… admission cost a measly quid!). Time has been less benevolent to ‘Blood & Thunder’, their second album, which now sounds a bit of a mess – understandable considering the trying standards of its birth. But look… there’s also a copy of my favourite Gamma CD, ‘2’ (originally released in 1980)… that’s a bit bloody special. Le Roux’s 1980 record ‘Up’ is also included, plus a Suterian-approved Harlequin album (‘Love Crimes’, also dating back to 1980) that till now I only possessed on vinyl. That’s a tidy little haul, especially Gamma ‘2’; now please excuse me, I’m off to throw some air guitar shapes to ‘Mean Streak’ and ‘Four Horsemen’…